We’ve all seen the dramatic hunting footage on nature programmes, but it takes quite a leap for humans to identify with the eating habits of wild animals. While many species of animal are capable of showing empathy, the reality is that in the wild, predator animals hunt because it is instinctual and they have no choice – the alternative would be starvation. The same is not true for humans, who can not only survive but thrive on a vegan diet, especially in developed societies where plant food is abundant.
Wild animals do not make a moral choice about what to eat, so why would humans look to them for guidance about our own diets? We don’t defer to nonhuman species on other moral matters. When a mother owl encourages her chicks to peck the youngest sibling to death and eat it because food is scarce, do we think ‘That’s a good idea, next time money’s tight I’ll try that?’. We can all make up our own minds about how to behave, so we can also use those big human brains of ours to make an informed choice about what we eat.